Antiquitas XXVIII. Elite in greek and roman antiquity

Krzysztof Nowotka, Andrzej Łoś (red.)
ISSN: 0524-4463
ISBN: 83-229-2739-8
Liczba stron: 226
Format: B5, oprawa broszurowa
Rok wydania: 2008
Nakład wyczerpany

The word elite is among expressions commonly used in social sciences. Sometimes it is applied in broad descriptive sense in reference to categories and social groups which appear to occupy the position at the top of a power structure or of a structure controlling resources. This word is often considered equivalent to expressions leaders, people of influence, the privileged. By itself it applies to a broad spectrum of society encompassing politicians, higher echelons of civil service, company managers, high ranking army and police officers, religious leaders, prominent lawyers, intellectuals, professors, leading journalists, trade union leaders. It can be used notwithstanding a preconceived methodological principle, although in the past it was a word of choice among anti-Marxist thinkers for whom it appeared more acceptable than the Marxist ruling class.

The pronounced lack of precision in defining elite has often lead scholars to question the very feasibility of identifying elite within the society or even to deny value of studying these social groups. In fact, elite can be best referred to in somewhat ironic words of Sir Moses Finley as being an admirably vague word. For all methodological difficulty, both historians, including those studying antiquity, and sociologists continue in their attempts to define elite. In fact, definition and methodology have been an important part of scholarly discussion of elites of ancient and modern society of recent years.

This can be seen also in texts read in 2003 Wroclaw colloquium and published in this volume, although methodological aspects of study of elite do not dominate in most papers of this volume. One of the principal criteria of being a member of social elite is the individual's economic position.

The economic foundation of ancient elites has been discussed for years. It was the topic of heated debates in the 1970s and the 1980s. A climax of sharp polemic was reached during the 1991 colloquium on Italian elites in Clermont-Ferrand. Since then the discussion has toned down, even if the scholarly interest in economic issues of ancient elites has not diminished.

The Wroclaw colloquium bears a testimony to this trend. Functioning of ancient elite has been studied in the context of political system of the day. An issue, frequently discussed, also during the Wroclaw colloquium, is the relationship between social elite and monarchy. This problem features prominently in a number of papers, devoted to Jewish, Greek and Roman history. Even if it does not dominate this volume, it certainly provides a leading principle of current study of elite in classsical antiquity

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